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6 Millennials Fight for the Title of 'America's Best Yardfarmer'

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6 Millennials Fight for the Title of 'America's Best Yardfarmer'

An upcoming reality TV show, Yardfarmers, will pit six young Americans against each other as they compete for the title of “America’s Best Yardfarmer.”

A new reality TV show will follow six young Americans as they attempt to farm their parents' backyards. Photo credit: Yardfamers Instagram

Yardfarmers will follow six young adults as they move back in with their parents to farm their yard or neighborhood greenspace. The show, which will air in spring 2017, was created by Erik Assadourian, a senior fellow at the Worldwatch Institute. It will be produced by Big Mouth Productions in partnership with the Worldwatch Institute.

The winner will be chosen based on a number of factors including: the amount of produce grown, what sustainable practices the yardfarmers used to produce the food, how effectively they enrich the land, and how well they educate and mobilize neighbors as well as the viewing audience.

The ultimate goal of the project is to help transform the 40 million acres of lawn in the U.S. into productive growing space and "convert the next generation of Americans into sufficiency farmers."

Yardfarmers want viewers to "imagine if suburban, exurban and even small urban plots around the country were converted to yardfarms. They imagine that "this land could create new livelihoods, food security, community resilience and more biodiverse lands that would absorb water runoff, attract local wildlife and sequester carbon (in the form of richer soils). Moreover it would reduce demand for lawn chemicals and over time reduce demand for industrial food and farming—in turn making it possible for those lands to be rewilded."

According to Assadourian, too many Americans' diets are "full of highly processed foods made primarily from corn, wheat and soy," and more than two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese.

At the same time, Americans are spending "thousands of dollars a year sustaining polluting, climate-changing, monocropped lawns," he noted. Turf-grass lawn is the fifth largest crop in the U.S. by acreage.

"These lawns are using valuable resources such as water, fertilizers, energy, fossil fuels, and no less importantly, our time," Assadourian continued. "Each week across North America millions of gallons of gasoline are used in the weekly lawn mowing ritual.

"It seems a bit crazy when the U.S. and Canada are doing everything possible to extract difficult, highly polluting oil resources, such as tar sands, deep water and fracking, that we are wasting our time and energy on making sure the lawn looks good for the neighbors."

Meanwhile, we're "sitting on huge reserves of fallow land just begging to be farmed," he added. That's why he's called on the next generation—with 36 percent of young Americans (ages 18-31) living in their parents’ homes—to take up the call and convert America's lawns to farmland.

Assadourian hopes we can reduce the acres of lawn in America down from 40 million today to less than 5 million by 2030. Photo credit: Yardfarmers

Casting is now closed for the first season, but applications are being accepted until Aug. 1 for the 2017 growing season.

Here's what Yardfamers is looking for if you're interested in applying:

  • Are you a young American between the ages of 21 and 30ish?

  • Do you live with your parents or would you consider moving back in with them?

  • Do you want to try to convert your parents’ lawn (and neighborhood greenspaces) into a workable yardfarm—one that can sustain you and your family either nutritionally or financially or both?

  • Do you want some guy with a camera following you around while you try to do this for nine months?!?

Watch the trailer for the upcoming season here:

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Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

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But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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